It’s not uncommon for a child to remain silent about being picked on at school. It’s embarrassing. You may want to look for signs that can cue you in to a bullying issue.
My son was bullied in sixth grade. The boy using the locker next to his assigned one punched him in the stomach every morning for months before I found out. I was surprised he didn’t tell me as we talked about this type of situation before school started and the importance of telling an adult. Kids don’t speak up easily, whether out of fear of making the situation worse or because they are ashamed.
I’d like to share some signs that might indicate your child is being bullied.
1. Unwillingness to go to school
If your generally happy child is suddenly having stomach aches and doesn’t want to go to school, a problem may be brewing at school.
2. Change in demeanor
In addition to physical symptoms, a child’s emotional behavior can signal a problem. Observe your child’s mood after school, and pay attention to whether or not they come home in a cheerful mood.
3. Change in sleep patterns
Your child may not want to go to sleep if they are worried about being picked on at school the next day. Nightmares and refusing to get out of bed in the morning can also be signs your child is anxious about being bullied.
4. Change in Grades
Kids who are being bullied may have difficulty staying focused on their schoolwork.
If your child typically does well in school, but you notice her grades starting to change, this could be a sign of a problem.
5. Shift in friends
While it’s normal for kids to have new friends from time-to-time, watch for signs that your child has no friends — complaining about eating lunch alone or remarking that friends they used to play with after school no longer want to come over. If your kid tells you “Nobody likes me”, bullying might be going on. Bullies like to isolate their victims and cut them out of the pack.
What can a parent do?
Make sure your child knows it’s important to talk to you. To make them more comfortable doing so, share stories of bullying from your own life. Remind your child at the same time to take notice of bullies mistreating others as well.
Take charge of the situation if you know your child is being picked on. Start with the teacher, asking them to help look out for the bullying behaviors. The next step if you do not feel supported is to go to the school counselor and/or the principal.
After exhausting both these options, you might try to talk to the other child’s parent in a respectful, not accusatory way. With our son, we were not helped by the teacher, counselor, or principal at the school and finally went to the parents. We were nervous about getting a defensive reaction and approached the conversation by saying, “This is what we are hearing. Since we are not there and don’t know for sure what’s going on, we thought we would ask you if you are aware of any possible issues.”
We were very lucky. Though the parents were surprised as they said their son ofen was picked on himself, they said they would talk to their son. Not only did the behavior stop the next day, but the parents called us two weeks later to make sure there were not more problems. It’s not unusual for a child who is bullied to turn around and do the same to a weaker kid to make him feel better about himself.
The bottom line is the most important thing is to keep your child healthy and safe.